A new public service act. So a better public service?

Public service failures in the recent news have raised serious questions of competence and oversight.

A muddle involving Housing New Zealand (HNZ), the Ministry of Health and Standards NZ needlessly caused mayhem and cost to a large number of tenants and landlords and taxpayers through evictions and cleanups. Prime ministerial chief science adviser Peter Gluckman’s report was trenchant. read more

Holiday, Her Majesty, honours and how to progress

A random thought, 1 June 2018

Queen’s Birthday weekend: holiday; genuflection; showers of honours on the deserving and undeserving.

The holiday marks winter for us but not for the monarchy, warm-glowed by The Wedding of Harry and a divorcee from Canada.

It also marks a corner of the constitution in which the sixth Labour administration shows no inclination yet to be a “government of transformation”. Republican Jacinda Ardern kneels to the monarchy, her republican party alongside. read more

“Licence to govern”. And a path ahead

Occasional article on the budget for the Otago Daily Times 17 May 2018

A government’s first budget sets its tone and path. The title is “Foundations for the Future” and Jacinda Ardern has billed it as “transformative”. Grand words. Does the budget live up to them?

Union and Labour party critics, some highly placed, say it is “too orthodox” to generate the “transformation of our society and economy” Grant Robertson trumpeted to the media in the pre-release budget lockup. read more

What’s in an Age? Opportunity

Colin James to Age Concern conference, 16 April 2018
The word “concern” in your name is a concern for this conference. Many people read “concern” as a “worry”. If so, there is going to be a lot more worry because there are going to be many more people “of an age” and they will be a larger proportion of the population with a smaller proportion of people of “working age” to provide for them.
But I read your “concern” as an expression of “care” or “value” in the “wellbeing” of this expanding cohort of ageing people, generating “opportunity”, not just for those people but for the whole of society.
Where will Aotearoan/New Zealanders choose to fix our focus through the 2020s? Fixing a problem? Or realising opportunity? …… read more

How well off are we really? The Treasury wants to know

The Treasury will today [Tuesday 20 March] take another step down its “wellbeing economics” track. On that road Grant Robertson is signposting a “wellbeing budget” in 2019.

The event is the Treasury’s four-yearly investment statement. Up to now it has essentially been a balance sheet of the government’s financial and physical assets and liabilities. Today’s will flag an extension. read more

Chris Hipkins’ plans for the public service and Parliament

This appeared in the February issue of Policy Quarterly, published by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies this week. It is a very brief scan of what State Services Minister and Leader of the House Chris Hipkins proposes for what is now known as the state sector (but for which there is growing pressure to rethink it as a public service) and for Parliament. read more

A lifetime learning. There comes a time.

Around the time I returned from London in 1978 a businessman punched a young journalist called Colin James. People in politics sympathised with me, some barely suppressing schadenfreude.

That other, punched, Colin James went offshore soon after. No one punched this Colin James (me), at least not physically. The incident reinforced for me the merit for a journalist of humility. read more

Politician of the year — and of five decades

It’s time to anoint the politician of 2017. It has to be Jacinda Ardern.

With accomplished assurance, she took Labour from a 24% poll average and falling in July to 36.9% in the election, 12 points up on 2014.

Don Brash’s 2002-05 18-point rescue of National beats that. But Ardern did it in under eight weeks, combining substance and connectedness. She is not “stardust”, Bill English’s shabby scoff. She is of a rising generation, he of a passing one. read more